If the loss in the final of the 2009 Memorial Cup was painful for Tyson Barrie, then Wednesday night’s defeat at the world junior hockey championship was downright excruciating.
Team Canada’s third-period meltdown on the way to a 5-3 loss to Russia in the gold medal game in Buffalo represented a brand new low for the Kelowna Rockets’ captain.
“I’ve never experienced anything quite like that,” Barrie said on Thursday morning. “When we lost the Memorial Cup (to Windsor) that was pretty devastating, but I think this experience even tops that one. What hurts and what’s so frustrating is the way we lost it, to be in control then let it slip away like we did. It’s tough to take.”
With a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead after two periods, Barrie and his Canadian teammates looked to be well on the way to clinching this country’s sixth gold medal in seven years at the world junior championship.
But over the final 20 minutes, a complete and utter collapse by Canada saw the Russians explode for five unanswered goals, including three in a span of less than five minutes.
For a team that showed so much composure throughout the tournament, Barrie is hard-pressed to pinpoint what went awry for Canada in the space of a few disastrous minutes.
“I thought we played great through the whole tournament and for two periods in the final,” said the 19-year-old defenceman. “Then for whatever reason, we let our foot off the gas in the most important period of the tournament, and they killed us. Momentum shifted, they’re a good team and they just ran with it. We just couldn’t stop them. It was hard to be part of it.”
From an individual perspective, the 19-year-old Barrie drew rave reviews for his play throughout the tournament. Known more in the WHL for his offensive flair, Barrie proved himself a more than capable defensive player for Canada and earned more and more ice time with each game.
Other than the gut-wrenching disappointment of a loss in the gold medal final, Barrie valued every moment of his time with Team Canada.
“It was a great experience for me, my first real one with Hockey Canada,” he said. “They give you every chance to win and they treat you very well. The bonds you form with the other guys, I’ll never forget…and that’s what makes losing so frustrating. You work together for a month, then to lose like that…it’s hard.”
Still, with nearly half a season to go with his Kelowna Rockets, Barrie doesn’t plan any spending much more time dwelling on the loss.
The Victoria native will be back in his team’s lineup Saturday night when the Kamloops Blazers visit Prospera Place.
“I have to put it behind me and move on…I’m looking forward to coming back and leading my team deep into the playoffs,” said Barrie. “We’ve got a real solid hockey club that is capable of going a long way.”
Like Barrie, Kelowna Minor Hockey product Curtis Hamilton opened some eyes with his solid two-way play at the tournament. Labeled as a defensive specialist heading into the event, the 6-foot-2 207 pound forward also showcased his offensive skills with four goals in seven games. Hamilton returned to Saskatchewan on Thursday to rejoin the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.
While Barrie and Hamilton reluctantly settled for silver medals, Rockets forward Mitchell Callahan has a bronze medal to add to his trophy case.
The California native helped Team USA to a 4-2 win over Sweden in the third-place finale on Wednesday in Buffalo.
“I think everybody’s goal is to get the gold medal but we’re the only team in U.S. history to win back to back medals,” said Callahan, who scored the game winner in the American’s victory over Switzerland. “It’s something special. I’m going to keep this medal for the rest of my life and remember this day for a long time.”
Callahan was a relative unknown as he earned a spot on Team USA but added he felt at home with the rest of his teammates.
“It was a great experience playing against the best junior players in the world,” he said. “All the guys on the team made it really welcoming for me. Everybody stuck together like a family.”
A third member of the Rockets appeared at his first world junior championship as forward Andreas Stene played in all six games for Norway.